ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece called on Spain’s ambassador to Athens on Sunday to rescind statements to a Greek newspaper suggesting that Athens was not supportive of Spanish unity, revealing strains between the European Union partners over a Catalan independence drive.
“It is with surprise that we note the comments made by the ambassador of friend and ally Spain, criticising publicly the Greek government,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
EU leaders, wary of encouraging separatists across the bloc, have largely backed the Madrid government during a deepening political crisis which culminated last week in the Catalan parliament voting to unilaterally declare the region’s independence from Spain.
The Spanish Ambassador to Greece, Enrique Viguera, was quoted in Sunday’s Eleftheros Typos newspaper as saying that while he had clear assurances of support for Spanish unity from Greece’s conservative opposition and from President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the same was not true of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s left-wing government.
“Statements on the issue from the part of the (Greek) government are absent. However, other European governments warmly supported the territorial integrity of Spain and our government’s position,” he said.
On Saturday, Greece, through its government spokesman, said it fully supported Spain’s territorial integrity and cohesion as well as any initiative to restore democratic dialogue in the framework of Spain’s constitution.
“We are particularly concerned over the situation in Spain and reiterate that Europe can only advance united. Unilateral actions cannot be acceptable,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said in a statement.
The Foreign Ministry accused the ambassador of “insulting Greece’s constitution” by suggesting that the country’s president did not speak for the government.
It also said that by adopting the arguments of the political opposition, Spain’s ambassador was interfering in Greece’s domestic politics.
“We call on the ambassador to avoid behaving in a way that is not in line with diplomatic norms and expect that he will proceed to rescind his unfortunate statements and provide the Greek government with the necessary explanations,” the ministry said.
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Adrian Croft